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Chapter 5

"Defense" as a National Military Philosophy,
the Natural Prey of the Intelligence Community

          FOLLOWING THE ESTABLISHMENT OF THE National Intelligence Authority, about eighteen months passed in which the DCI was deeply involved in setting up some organizations that could effectively coordinate national intelligence. This was easier said than done. The old scars of the war period had not healed, and nothing Admiral Souers could do would heal them. At the same time, the subordinate organizations were undergoing their own postwar organizational problems. The Department of State had set up an intelligence section under Colonel McCormick, and then, when Congress severely cut his funds in favor of the new Central Intelligence Group, he resigned and left things in bad shape. But some headway was made, and important legislation was pending that if passed would provide for the creation of an agency of some merit.

          At this point, the in-fighting got pretty heavy. It would be hard to recreate the hopes and the very real fears of those postwar years. It is one thing to win a major war and to end up victorious as the greatest military power ever created, it is an entirely different thing to realize that this great military force had been suddenly made obsolete by a totally new weapon of major proportions. During the long evolution of warfare, changes in the art of war had come about rather slowly. A thrown rock extended the range of hostility over the bare fist; then the sling gave the rock thrower more range. The sword made the right arm more lethal, and then the spear gave more range to the sword. Changes in weapons and changes in tactics were generally matters of degree. During World War I, the advent of the armored tank vehicle ushered in mechanized warfare, and the utilization of massed rapid-fire weapons made the proximate lines of the hostile perimeter between two powers a veritable and literal no-man's-land. Before the end of World War I, the airplane had extended the range of reconnaissance and air battles, and aerial bombardment gave evidence of the path of the future for aviation and for warfare in three dimensions. During the years between World War I and World War II, the greatest debates on military strategy and tactics were fought over the use of the new air weapon system. It was typical that the land and sea arms wished to cling to tradition and felt it necessary to play down the role of aviation. World War II cleared up these arguments, and by the end of that global encounter the airplane had become, if not the primary weapon of warfare, at least the major weapon of the war arsenal of the nation. Then, just as a quarter-century of sometimes violent argument over the establishment of an independent air force came to an end and the whole world became accustomed to conventional warfare, the atomic bomb threw a new dimension into the picture. No longer could any major warfare be conventional in the sense of that which had taken place during World War II. If all of warfare, if all of the techniques, weapons, and tactics of the ages were to be arranged into one spectrum of forces and then this total force matched against the atomic bomb alone, the bomb would have made all prior weaponry seem like a rock and a club. World War II ended unknowable, and the unthinkable, or so it seemed to many.

          In this climate, the postwar years were not relaxing. The aging men who had brought the country through the Great Depression and then who had led it through the greatest of wars were now weary and suddenly old. They had hoped to leave to the world a legacy of peace and prosperity. Many years earlier Wendell Willkie had preached the concept of one world. He, like Charles A. Lindbergh, had traveled the world and had seen that if there was to be lasting peace, men would have to think and practice one world. But that dream faded into the dawn of the war as the world was broken into two armed camps representing the Western world and the Axis powers. And in this case the Western world included the Soviet Union, which the Roosevelt Government had recognized back in 1933, and which it had joined during World War II in the total struggle against Italy, Germany, and Japan.

          With the war over and with Harry Truman wearing the mantle of peacemaker, his Secretary of State, James Byrnes, was again preaching one world and was trying to convince the world that the United States would never divide it and the day would never be seen again when mankind would have to resort to war. He was not only echoing the feelings of the prewar dreamers but he was attempting realistically to face the Nuclear Age. Nothing that had occurred before throughout the history of mankind had ever overhung the entire human race as portentously as did the atom bomb. There could be no letdown from the global responsibility, which had become as heavy a burden in peacetime as it bad been during the war.

          During 1946, the United States was grimly aware of the fact that it was the sole possessor of the bomb, and that this was to be for only a fleeting time. Scientists knew, even if the statesmen and politicians did not wish to know, that the secret of the bomb had already ended on the day it had been exploded over Hiroshima and that it was inevitable that Russia and other countries would have the bomb within a few years. Therefore, on the one hand there was a great rush to establish and structure the in as man's last best hope for peace. At the same time there was the beginning of a great and growing witch hunt in the United States concerning the protection of the secrets of the atomic bomb. Related to this was a demand for information from all over the world to make it possible for the United States to know the exact status of the development of the bomb by other powers. And related to all of these problems was the growing awareness of the danger that would arise from the growth and spread of Communism. Some of these concerns were real, and many were imagined.

          I recall having been in the Soviet Union during World War II. I had entered the country by way of Tehran, Iran, and flown mountains near Baku. Then our course took us further north over Makhachkala and northwesterly along the Manych River to Rostov. Although I had seen many bombed and burned cities during the war - from Italy to Manila and Tokyo -- I had never seen anything to compare with the absolute devastation of Rostov. From there we flew toward Kiev to the city of Poltava, where we landed and remained for a few days. Our return was over essentially the same route. Since I had been free to fly a varied course, I flew at about five hundred feet above the ground for the entire trip and wandered off course right and left as random cities and towns came into view.

          The major lesson from such a flight was that the war areas of Russia had been terribly destroyed by the German onslaught and by the Russian scorched-earth policy. The other outstanding factor was that over this fifteen-hundred-mile area of the Russian heartland there were absolutely no roads. There were trails and horse or farm-vehicle paths, but no roads of any kind. There were a major railroad and the great Manych Canal. In 1944, one could observe that Russia was going to have to recover from a devastating war and was going to have to make a major effort to develop its backward economic base, which without modern road transportation would certainly be limited in its growth.

          It was clear that when the great anti-Communist hue and cry began only two years later, it was founded more on the potential danger of Russia as a developer of an atom bomb capability than it was on Russia's potential threat to the United States. The result of the "Communist threat" emotionalism was to create in the minds of Americans and others in the Western world the image of a Soviet monster, which was only part flesh and mostly fantasy. However, it was just this sort of thing that played into the hands of those alarmists who supported a movement to create a strong central intelligence authority with clandestine operational powers.

          There were then several factors that came together in support of the creation of a central intelligence agency. The Administration had seen the woeful deficiencies of uncoordinated intelligence as practiced during World War II. Also, the Administration saw the real importance and necessity for a strong intelligence arm of the President as a result of the new pressures of the Nuclear Age. However, the early Truman Administration was trying to provide leadership for the one world defined by Secretary of State James Byrnes and to keep the world from being torn into armed camps again so shortly after the war. In spite of their efforts, the resounding warning issued by the great wartime orator, Winston Churchill, took its toll, and within one year after he had delivered his "Iron Curtain" speech, lines had been drawn, and the issue became one of Communism versus anti-Communism. The events that turned all of this around during 1946 and 1947 are not the subject of this book; but certainly the British notification to the United States that it was going to withdraw its support of the Greeks and Turks "in their struggle for survival against Communism" did as much as Churchill's speech to raise the banner of the Truman Doctrine and to extend Churchill's wall from the Balkans across the Northern Tier. By 1948 the Truman Administration was no longer advocating what it had preached in early 1946.

          All of these pressures -- and they were great pressures at that crucial time -- played a major part in the decision to create the Central Intelligence Agency and in the behind-the-scenes battles that were incidental to the passage of the law. By the time the lines had hardened, few would deny the necessity for central coordinated intelligence, and nearly everyone was convinced that the quality of national intelligence must be improved. However, as strongly as these measures were supported, the majority also denied the proposals that would have given the Intelligence Authority its own clandestine branch and the means to support such activities. General Donovan, Allen Dulles, and others took to the rostrum and spoke publicly and privately of the need, as they saw it, for an agency with special "operations" powers. To confirm this need and to inflame the public with this issue, the supporters of the clandestine operations proposition became the greatest firebrands of the anti-Communism theme. It was this same group that picked up the banner hurled by Winston Churchill and that saw Communists under every rock. It was during these crucial days that the opposition, no matter who the opposition was, was painted pink or red with the label of Communist. A beginning of this form of public and political blackmail was made during these debates, and it reached its zenith less than a decade later in the infamous days of Senator Joseph McCarthy.

          In the quarter-century that has followed this debate, this country and the world have become somewhat accustomed to the polemics of this terrible issue. What began perhaps as an honest effort to alert this country to the fact that the Soviet Government did in fact have the potential to unleash the secrets of the atom and thus to build atomic bombs, gradually became a powerful tool in the hands of the irresponsible and the agitators. All opposition for whatever reason was branded as Communist or pro-Communist. Gradually, this dogma of anti-Communism was extended into the entire world, and by the time of the publication of the Truman Doctrine, the entire world had been divided into Communist and anti-Communist along the lines of the Iron Curtain, the Northern Tier, and the Bamboo Curtain. Once these Lines had been drawn, it remained only for time to run its course and for the Soviet Union to follow natural growth and scientific achievement to obtain not only the atomic bomb, but the hydrogen bomb and then the intercontinental ballistic missile. As many have said, these decisions and pressures, which first appeared during the years immediately following the end of World War II, have contained some of the most serious and grievous mistakes of this quarter-century. Certainly this blind anti-Communism can be listed as one of the most costly, especially when reviewed in terms of the waste and senselessness of the action in Indochina.

          The first great fault with the drift of opinion at that time became evident in the very shift of emphasis with regard to the national military establishment. Throughout our history the idea of war had been treated as a positive action. War was that last resort of a nation, after all means of diplomacy had failed, to impress its might and its will upon another. And throughout our proud history we never had faced war as something passive or re-active. But somehow in that postwar era this nation began to think of war as defense and then as defense alone. In other words, in this defense philosophy we were not telling the world that the most powerful nation in the world was showing its magnanimity and restraint; we were saying that we would defend only. And to the rest of the world that meant that we were going to play a passive role in world affairs and that we were passing the active role, and with it the initiative, to others -- in this case to the men in the Kremlin. We not only said this as we disestablished our traditional War Department but we have done it throughout the intervening twenty-five years by developing the capability to search out the action of an enemy and then by responding. This defensive posture of our military and foreign policy has been a terrible mistake, and it opened the doors for the newborn intelligence community to move in and take over the control of U.S. foreign and military policy.

          Despite the heat and pressure of the intelligence lobby in 1946 and 1947, the National Security Act of 1947 did not contain specific authorization for the new agency to become involved in clandestine operations. In July of 1947 Congress passed the National Security Act, and when President Truman signed it into law, this Act became effective on September 18, 1947. It was the most important piece of legislation to have been passed since World War II. More money has been spent, more lives influenced, and more national prestige and tradition affected by this one law than anything that has been done since that date -- and all in the futile and passive name of defense. In this single Act, Congress established the Department of Defense with its single civilian secretary, and it established a new military organization joining the old Army and Navy, with an independent Air Force and a Joint Chiefs of Staff. It also set up the National Security Council, which consisted of the President, the Vice President, the Secretaries of State and of Defense, and the director of the Office of Emergency Planning. It provided for the Operations Coordinating Board to assure that decisions arrived at within the NSC were carried out as planned and directed. And not to be overlooked, this same act created the Central Intelligence Agency and very specifically placed it, "for the purpose of coordinating the intelligence activities of the several Government departments and agencies in the interest of national security... under the direction of the National Security Council..."

          In a law that already invited the creation of some power center to arise and take over the direction of the military establishment, because that organization was by definition passive, the Congress left the door wide open, by placing the precocious new baby under the direction of a committee. In the context of the period, there could have been no doubt that it was the intention of the Congress and of the Administration that this new central intelligence authority was to perform as its primary function the role of coordinator of information, and no more. Agency protagonists, many of whom have made a career of stretching the language of the law, have always attempted to belittle the significance of the restrictive and delineating language.

          Lyman Kirkpatrick, the long-time very able executive director of the CIA, speaks for this very parochial school of thought in his excellent book, The Real CIA, as follows: "Many of those who believe that the CIA has too much power, or does things that it should not do, claim that this clause shows the intent of Congress that the CIA should only coordinate the activities of the other agencies and should not be engaged in collection or action itself." This is a shrewd way to put it. He would have his readers believe that only "those who believe that the CIA has too much power..." are the ones who read the law properly. The truth of the matter is that anyone who reads the law and who also takes the trouble to research the development of the language of the law will see that Congress meant just what it said, that the CIA was created "for the purpose of coordinating the intelligence activities of the several Government departments and agencies..." And no more! When the greatest proponent of a central intelligence authority, General William J. Donovan, prevailed upon President Roosevelt to establish such an organization in 1941, the office that was established with General Donovan as its head was no more than the Office of Coordinator of Information. This office paved the way for the wartime Office of Strategic Services. At the end of the war, President Truman abolished that office and shortly thereafter set up another National Intelligence Authority in January 1946, again for the purpose of coordinating intelligence. It will be noted that the specific duties assigned to the new agency (CIA) specifically itemized most of the standard tasks of Intelligence, with the exception of "collection". It would seem that a Congress that had debated the subject so long and so thoroughly would not have overlooked the function of collection. It is more likely that Congress fully intended what it stated -- that the task of the CIA was that of "coordinating" intelligence.

          The duties of the CIA were set forth in the law as follows:

          1. to advise the National Security Council in matters concerning such intelligence activities of the government departments and agencies as relate to national security;

          2. to make recommendations to the NSC for the coordination of such intelligence activities....;

          3. to correlate and evaluate intelligence relating to the national security, and provide for the appropriate dissemination of such intelligence within the government... provided that the Agency shall have no police, subpoena, law-enforcement powers, or internal security functions....;

          4. to perform, for the benefit of the existing intelligence agencies, such additional services of common concern as the NSC determines can be more efficiently accomplished centrally;

          5. to perform such other functions and duties related to intelligence affecting the national security as the NSC may from time to time direct.

          For those familiar with that language used in legislative writing, it should be very clear that Congress knew exactly what it was doing when it set up a central authority to coordinate intelligence and when it further delineated the responsibilities into those five brief and explicit paragraphs shown above. Yet few such uncomplicated and simple lines defining the law of the land have ever been subject to so much misinterpretation, intentional and accidental, as have these.

          Anyone who has read the books of Allen Dulles and of his executive director, Lyman Kirkpatrick, will find that they just cannot bring themselves to quote these simple lines verbatim. They have to paraphrase them and cite them with brief but absolutely essential omissions of key words, or add to them explanations that are certainly not in the language of the law.

          Let us look at a few of these important details. The law established the Department of Defense as a full and permanent part of the Government, with a continuing corporate existence and full power and authority to budget for its own funds and to expend them for its own use year after year. The law very specifically placed the CIA under the direction of a committee, the NSC, to serve at its direction. In this sense the NSC was to be the operating body and the CIA was to serve it. This may appear to be a small distinction, but had things worked out this way and had strong and continuing leadership come from the NSC, including the Office of the President, the Agency would not have become what Harry Truman has called, "a symbol of sinister and mysterious foreign intrigue."

          The distinction is one of leadership. It may have seemed in 1947 that a committee consisting of the President, Vice President, Secretary of State, and Secretary of Defense would be strong enough to keep the fledgling Agency under control. But no committee is stronger than its weakest, or in this case its busiest, member(s). As planned, the Agency was supposed to become involved in clandestine activity only at the direction of the NSC, if ever. It was not considered that the Agency would get involved in clandestine activity "by approval of" the NSC. However, as the Agency found this weakness and began to probe it, it remained for the members of the NSC to have the strength of their convictions and the courage to say NO. The record shows that this was the case on several occasions in the late forties; but as the Agency grew in size, power, and wiliness it found its way around the committee's horse-collar.

          If the Congress had any intention of permitting the CIA to evolve into a major operational agency, it certainly would not have placed it under the direction of a Committee. It is not enough to say that its choice of the NSC was made because this would mean that the CIA would then be safely under the eye of the President. This is what General Donovan wanted; but he and the other strong operational CIA proponents did not want even the NSC (Secretary of State and Secretary of Defense) between the CIA and the President. By assigning the CIA to the NSC, Congress was attempting to make of the NSC itself an operational organization for this limited purpose. It may not have intended this, since we feel strongly that Congress did not visualize any clandestine operations under any setup, but when it gave the NSC the responsibility to direct the CIA it left the NSC with the task of directing the Agency if the time ever arose when clandestine operations were to be mounted. And as history reveals, that time was not far away. The Agency saw to that itself.

          Later events underscored the major significance of the NSC responsibility for the CIA. Truman and Eisenhower utilized the NSC as a personal staff. The uses these Presidents made of it were individual and distinct from each other; but they did utilize it along the general conceptual lines inherent in the National Security Act of 1947. Eisenhower used it as a strong military-type staff and then leaned upon the Operations Coordinating Board (OCB) to see that directives were carried out in accordance with his desires. When Kennedy became President he almost totally ignored the NSC and abandoned the OCB. Either he threw aside the NSC because he thought of it as an Eisenhower-era antiquity or he simply may not have completely understood the function of that kind of staff operation.

          Whatever his reasons, he certainly left the door wide open for the CIA. With no NSC, there was a major reason why Kennedy never received the kind of staff support he should have had before the Bay of Pigs and why he was unable to get proper control afterwards. It even explains why Kissinger's role has become so dominant in the Nixon Administration after the long years of the unfettered Maxwell Taylor and McGeorge Bundy residency in the White House as key men for the CIA, operating almost without an NSC in control. As time and events have eroded and shaped the application of the interpretations of this law, the Agency has tended to be decreasingly effective in the area of coordinating national intelligence, especially since the emergence of its greatest rival and counterpart, the Defense Intelligence Agency; and it has become increasingly operational as it has succeeded in working itself out from under the strictures of the NSC.

          The success or failure of the next four listed duties of the CIA as set forth in the Act are related (often inversely) to the activity of the Agency under whatever type of NSC existed during the administrations of the several Presidents. According to Harry Howe Ransom in his book, Can American Democracy Survive the Cold War?, within the Act itself Congress specified that the NSC should "advise the President with respect to the integration of domestic, foreign and military policies..." among the various government departments and agencies, including the military; and "to assess and appraise the objectives, commitments and risks of the United States in relation to our actual and potential military power..." To show how the NSC was created within the atmosphere of that time, Ransom[1] states, "...the principle role specified for NSC in the statute was not to make final decisions, but to advise the President; to make his national security policy and administrative task more efficient. But whenever the bureaucracy is institutionalized and centralized, there is the risk of minimizing the discretion and flexible maneuverability of the Presidency. And this in turn can adversely affect both the common defense and the fulfillment of the democratic ideal. Many see too much unchecked Presidential power as the main threat to freedom, but this does not appear to be the real danger in modern American government, with the important possible exception of Executive control over the flow of information. It is the President's inability to rise above the decision-making machinery and to exert responsible leadership in the national interest -- perceived from the highest level -- that places the basic democratic idea in doubt."

          As Ransom points out, "At the first meeting of the NSC in 1947, President Truman indicated that he regarded it as 'his council', that is to say, as a purely advisory body. Later President Eisenhower, although inclined to regard it as 'the council', made clear nonetheless that NSC was absolved of any responsibility per se for national decisions." The NSC advises; the responsibility for decision is the President's, insisted Eisenhower. President Kennedy came to office with an apparent bias against the kind of use Eisenhower made of NSC. Borne into office on a great chorus of rhetoric about the need for purposeful, energetic Presidential leadership, Kennedy "at first made little use of the Council" as a formal advisory body. Following the 1961 Cuban fiasco, however, "the NSC was restored somewhat".

          In a very prescient paragraph, Ransom shows how important this grasp for power by an inner secret team was becoming as far back as 1952. Even as the NSC was getting started, a struggle for control of that body was under way; and the control was to be elected by gradually making that advisory committee into an operating power center. Ransom's comment is worth repeating here:

          "Early in NSC's life, according to President Truman, 'one or two of its members tried to change it into an operating super-cabinet on the British model.' Truman identifies the members as his first two Secretaries of Defense, James Forrestal and Louis Johnson, who would sometimes, Truman recounts, put pressures on NSC's executive secretary to use NSC authority to see that various governmental agencies were following NSC policy. The executive secretary declined to do this, on the ground that his was an advisory staff rather than an executing 'line' function. Truman fought to keep the subordinate nature of NSC clear to all, emphasizing that Congress had in fact changed the title of NSC 'Director' to 'Executive Secretary'. Forrestal had, Truman notes, advocated using the British cabinet system as a model for the operation of postwar American government. To change to this system, wrote Truman, "we would have to change the Constitution, and I think we have been doing very well under our Constitution."

          Nowhere was this behind-the-scenes struggle more significant than it was in the attempt to make of the "quiet intelligence arm of the President" an operational and extremely powerful secret agency. During the Eisenhower years the NSC, which at times was a large and unwieldy body, was reduced for special functions and responsibilities to smaller staffs. For purposes of administering the CIA among others, the NSC Planing Board was established. The men who actually sat as working members of this smaller group were not the Secretaries themselves. These men are heads of vast organizations and have many demands upon their time. This means that even if they could attend most meetings, the essential criteria for leadership and continuity of the decision-making process simply could not be guaranteed. Thus the subcommittee or special group idea was born, and these groups were made up of men especially designated for the task. In the case of the Special Group, called by many codes during the years, such as "Special Group 5412/2", it consists of a designated representative of the President, of the Secretary of State, the Secretary of Defense, and the DCI in person. This dilution of the level of responsibility made it possible for the CIA to assume more and more power as the years went by, as new administrations established their own operating procedures, and as the control intended by the law became changed.

          As the years passed, the basic concept of the NSC's role in the direction of the Agency became reversed, or at least greatly diverted. Whereas the law charged the Council with the direction of the CIA and would account for consideration of such things as clandestine operations from "time to time" and then only by Council direction it became the practice of the DCI not only to deliver essential intelligence briefings to the NSC, but to request a limited audience in order that he might inform them of and seek approval for some operation he felt might be derived from his intelligence data.

          In the earliest of such instances we may be quite certain that the operations so presented were reasonably modest. The NSC undoubtedly overlooked the variance in procedure and felt that its approval of such minor requests was tantamount to "direction" of the Agency. As time passed and as the DCI exploited his position, it might have seemed to be rather reasonable to suggest the establishment of a small special group to take this "burden" from these senior officials and to provide men who could more readily attend to such matters, minor as they were, in the place of the busy Council principals. Thus the establishment of the first Special Group.

          As things progressed, the Special Croup 5412/2 became not just the working group of the NSC but rather a select group that had assumed the responsibility for clandestine activity. Certainly, each designated Special Group member reported back to his principal, but by that time it was not so much for direction as it was for "informational approval"; in the language of bureaucracy this meant, "If he doesn't say a clear NO, it's O.K."

          By that time in the course of events, a new process had evolved, and the DCI felt perfectly at liberty to prepare all the clandestine operations his intelligence sources would support and to present them to the Special Group for nothing more than approval. But even this was not enough. The next step was to have Agency-affiliated men in the Special Group itself, or at least to have them working with the Group as special advisers. This is why the President's appointee has always been so important to the DCI. Since the appointment of Maxwell Taylor in that position after the Bay of Pigs, the DCI has had men in that position whom he could count upon as a two-way conduit. When the DCI wanted to get information to the President he would use this man, and when he wanted the President's approval on something, he would use him for that, too. The same has been true with the representatives in State and Defense. During much of the crucial build-up years in Indochina, men such as Bill Bundy and Ed Lansdale have represented State and Defense on this committee. Of course, both of these men were CIA alumni, and as a result the DCI could always count upon them to grease the way for any of his proposals to the NSC.

          This has been a significant evolution away from the language and the intent of the law. It has meant that the sole authority established as a final resort to oversee and control the CIA has become no more than a rubber stamp for all clandestine operations. And throughout all of this the ST has been able to carry out its desires under a cloak of secrecy that has kept its moves shielded from the highest officials of this Government. For example, in those crucial early years of Vietnam, did McNamara and Rusk look upon Lansdale and Bill Bundy as Defense and State men under their command and control, or did they recognize them as CIA agents under the direction of the DCI? Or when the Special Assistant for Counterinsurgency and Special Activities from the Joint Staff was called to the White House, did President Kennedy and others look upon this man, General Krulak, as a member of the military establishment because he was wearing a uniform, or did they recognize him as a key spokesman for the interests and activities of the CIA?

          This shift of command control over the Agency from under the direction of the NSC was undoubtedly as important a move as has occurred in any part of the Government since the passage of the National Security Act of 1947. It explains why the CIA has operated so free of effective and ironclad control during the past ten to twelve years.

          The CIA, even working within the limits of the 1947 Act, has a distinct advantage. It is a true "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde" agency. The CIA has the responsibility to advise the NSC on matters of intelligence affecting the national security. It therefore is in a position to demand the time and attention of the NSC, including the President, to present its views on every situation facing the nation on a regular and frequent basis. It performs these functions in the name of Intelligence. Thus it is in a position to make the President and his principal advisers virtually its prisoners, in the sense that it has a legal claim to their valuable time. Day by day the CIA tells these men what it wants them to hear, what it thinks they should hear. At the same time, its select audience is in the position of never knowing whether the information it is hearing is no more than Intelligence or whether it may be some special Secret Intelligence primed to prepare the Special Group for another clandestine activity. Certainly, this is a matter of judgment for both factions concerned; but the Agency would be less than human if it did not consider those choice bits of Intelligence, which it thought worthy of clandestine support, to be more important than others. Thus the CIA as an intelligence agency on the one hand, can and does take one position, and as an operational and policy-making organization on the other hand, may benefit from the representations of its other half. Note how this shows up repeatedly in the Pentagon Papers.

          Nothing bears this out better than the transition from the Eisenhower Administration to the Kennedy team. Kennedy had his own way of operating within the organizational staff of the Government. He placed friends and long-time associates all over Washington in all sections of the Executive Branch who were unquestionably loyal to him and who worked for him first and for their new organization second. This resulted in a sudden degradation of the value and importance of the NSC, as has been stated in the remarks quoted earlier of Harry Howe Ransom. Since the law requires the NSC to direct the CIA, this meant that the CIA direction was almost nonexistent. It followed then that it was during the Kennedy Administration that the CIA, with the ST opening doors for it everywhere, began its runaway move into special operations with the Bay of Pigs operation and climaxed it with the conflict in Indochina.

          This situation might not have been so abrupt and of such magnitude had it not been for the fact that Allen Dulles was one of the few holdovers from the Eisenhower Administration. Had the DCI been a Kennedy appointee, it is possible that he could have provided an element of control over the operational agency. However, Dulles' drive and zeal, given this recognition by Kennedy, accelerated into full speed and power; and unfettered by the NSC, he used it. Great problems arose from this situation, because he used this power without limit both from the point of view of his personal actions, and more importantly, from the fact that the ST was unleashed. Whereas Allen Dulles can be called a responsible official, there were many who were not, as a reading of the Pentagon Papers will demonstrate and confirm.

          The best evidence of how unrestrained the ST became lies in the record of the great proliferation of the concept of counterinsurgency (CI). Almost as soon as the Kennedy Administration got under way -- certainly as it entered its second year -- the CIA, the White House, and certain elements of the DOD added one country after the other to the counterinsurgency list. To the believer in the blind anti-Communist doctrine, it sounded almost preordained that he should search for and then route out all "Communist-inspired subversive insurgency" wherever it was found. In rapid succession, one country after another was added to the long list of counterinsurgency countries, and a new special group was formed, the Special Group CI (Counterinsurgency), which was simply a front within the U.S. Government, to make it possible for the ST to operate in almost any country. The old restraints of a traditional awareness of the meaning of national sovereignty and of the absolute importance of this inviolable principle fell away as if they were of no merit in the zeal of the CI-breed to wipe out so-called Communist-inspired subversive insurgency wherever they thought they saw it.

          This flimsy disguise for clandestine operations brought together men who had little experience in the type of operation being developed and even less idea of the political situation in the countries involved. It was a shattering experience to attend some of these meetings and to hear men, some high in the councils of government, not even-able to locate some of these countries and to pronounce their names. The CIA, reveling in this situation, would work up a proposal practically from a mimeographed boiler-plate of other exercises and forward it to some friend, perhaps an Agency man on assignment outside of the Agency, who was working in a think-tank group such as the Institute of Defense Analysis (IDA). The man in the Institute would then make copies of this "operational concept". In normal times this concept would have been highly classified and revealed to a very few cleared officials; but during this Kennedy-inspired CI period it was not necessary to bother with that bit of detail.

          To carry on our example, the IDA official would then convene a meeting with representatives of the Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD), the JCS, State Department, the White House, and even some of the same CIA officials who had initiated the idea and sent it to IDA in the first place. The others would not know that this proposal had begun with the CIA. The main purpose of their meeting would be to discuss this operation, designed to combat the influence of "Communist inspired subversive insurgency" in the country listed. After such a meeting, this ad hoc group would propose that either the CIA or OSD work up the operational concept and present it to the NSC Special Group CI for approval. The Special Group CI, noting that this idea had already been well staffed and that it was just about the same thing as others already under way, would rubber stamp its approval and assign the project to the CIA for accomplishment.At this point in the evolution of the ST it would not occur to anyone that such an operation that violated the sovereignty of another country or that was patently a case of "interference in the internal affairs of another nation" should not be carried out without some formal sanction from the host government. The idea of fighting Communism had become so blindly accepted that they began to forget that such activity was properly a "clandestine operation" and should not be performed lightly. The feeling of urgency and of an almost missionary zeal to combat and root out real or imagined subversive insurgency anywhere was such that the great importance of national sovereignty was all but overlooked. "Subversive insurgency" meant third-nation involvement; so the Secret Team just assumed the right to become a party to the action in any country without even asking. What had been covert operations only a few years earlier were then considered perfectly acceptable under the definition of counterinsurgency. This did not mean that they were not concerned with the need for secrecy in the United States to keep the knowledge of what they were doing elsewhere from the public and Congress; it only meant that they worked openly and almost unrestrictedly in the host CI country.

          The Army, Navy, and Air Force all had developed many units of Special Forces, Special Air Warfare squadrons and SEAL (Sea, Air, Land) teams, and these were sent into any country that would accept them. These teams were heavily sprinkled with CIA agents, and most of their direction in the field was the operational responsibility of the CIA.

          As we develop this further, it will be seen how the CIA was able to work around and out from under the law, which at first saw the Agency as only a coordinating authority and secondly had provided that the NSC would at times have the authority to direct the CIA into other activities in the national interest. The Congress had been so certain that the Agency would not become operational and policy-making that it was content to place it under the control of a committee. Congress knew that the Agency would never be permitted to become involved in clandestine operations and therefore that the NSC would never have to direct it in an operational sense.

          Before we leave the subject of the Agency development, we should look at one more aspect of the subject. Much of what the CIA is today, it has become because of Allen Dulles. From the days of World War II, when he was active with the Office of Strategic Service until he left the Agency as it moved to its magnificent new headquarters building in Langley, Virginia, in the fall of 1961, this kindly looking gentleman did little else than devote his life to the cause of the Central Intelligence Agency. Whether one met him in the old office building overlooking Foggy Bottom, glasses in his hand, pipe nearby, settled comfortably in his big leather chair with his feet informally shod in old slippers; or at his Georgetown mansion to find him dressed in white tennis shorts and vee-necked sweater, Allen Dulles always had that quiet yet alert look of a man who knew exactly what he was doing. He may not have known at all times what some of the boys in the back room were doing; but don't let anyone ever tell you that he did not know precisely what he as doing and what his plans were.

          Thus, when Congress enacted the National Security Act of 1947, he accepted it as a major milestone on the road which he knew he would follow. It was not a barrier to him and it was not a handicap. It was simply a place to start. Typical of his method is the way in which he organized his book in 1962. The only intelligence function of general significance not covered in the language of the National Security Act of 1947 was that of collection. Characteristically, the only intelligence function given any chapter heading emphasis -- and it is given two chapters -- in his book, The Craft of Intelligence, is collection. This was so typical of the man. He would have everyone believe that if he repeated something often enough and if he pounded something out often enough, sooner or later everyone else would give up, and he would have what he wanted. His book would convince anyone that the most important Congressional mandate to the CIA was that of collection; yet that function was not named and was specifically omitted in the law. The CIA most certainly did get into the collection business and has augmented the collection capability of the military and of the State Department.

          It was this same bulldog ability of Allen Dulles that brought the CIA into the clandestine operations business, and once in, that made it the primary business of the Agency. Here he was, working against all of the constraints that had been set up against him. He simply worked like the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon; he eroded all opposition. We shall find more to say about this in later chapters. The other regular duties of the CIA were spelled out in the law and have generally been clear and noncontroversial, until we get to the provisions of subparagraph 5, which are discussed in detail later.


  1. Harry Howe Ransom teaches political science at Vanderbilt University and is one of the Foremost authors on the subject of the Intelligence Community. He has taught at Harvard, Princeton, Vassar, and Michigan State University. He is author of Central Intelligence and National Security.

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